Tony Stewart not racing after crash
Published 10/08/2014 | 13:45
Tony Stewart will not race on Sunday following the death of a sprint car driver who was struck by Stewart's car at an upstate New York dirt track.
Greg Zipadelli, competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing, said the three-time Nascar champion "feels strongly" he should not race at Watkins Glen following Kevin Ward Jr's fatal accident.
"We gave Tony some time to sleep on it. He feels strongly this is the right thing to do," Mr Zipadelli said. "All you can do is what you feel is right, and we feel this is right. We get through today and do it the best we can as a group.
"He's going through a tough time. It's emotional for him."
Regan Smith will drive Stewart's car instead.
Ward had crashed following contact with Stewart one lap earlier and got out of his car as it was stopped along the fence. Video of the incident showed Ward walking from his crashed car on to the racing surface as cars circled by, and, as he gestured at Stewart's passing car, he was struck.
Authorities questioned Stewart but said no criminal charges were imminent. Stewart travelled to Watkins Glen International following police questioning.
Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said Stewart was "visibly shaken" and had been cooperative in the investigation.
"This is right now being investigated as an on-track crash and I don't want to infer that there are criminal charges pending," Mr Povero said. "When the investigation is completed, we will sit down with the district attorney and review it. But I want to make it very clear: there are no criminal charges pending at this time."
A witness said it appeared Ward was trying to confront Stewart, the three-time Nascar Sprint Cup Champion. The video showed Ward standing to the right of Stewart's familiar No 14 car, which seemed to kick out from the rear and hit him.
Moments earlier, Ward and Stewart were racing side-by-side for position as they exited a turn. Ward was on the outside when Stewart, on the bottom, seemed to slide toward Ward's car and crowd him toward the wall. The rear tire of Stewart's car appeared to clip the front tire of Ward's car, and Ward spun into the fence.
Povero said Ward, who was wearing a black firesuit and black helmet, had walked into the racing area and one car swerved to avoid him before he was struck by Stewart's car.
"The next thing I could see, I didn't see (the other driver) any more," witness Michael Messerly said. "It just seemed like he was suddenly gone."
A spokesman for Stewart's racing team called Ward's death a "tragic accident."
The dirt track, about 30 miles south east of Rochester, cancelled the remainder of the race and later posted a message on its Facebook page encouraging fans to "pray for the entire racing community of fans, drivers, and families."
Ward's website said he began racing go-karts in 1998 at age four, but did not start driving sprint cars until 2010. The 20-year-old from Port Leyden, New York, was Empire Super Sprint rookie of the year in 2012 and this year was his fifth season racing the Empire Super Sprints.
In a statement, Stewart said the crash has been "emotional" for all involved.
"There aren't words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr," he said.
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